Don't wait till you need it

BAD weather was on the way, and a friend advised me to add weight to my small vehicle for more stability on slick roads. As we parted he called, ``Don't wait till you need it!'' He was talking about sandbags in a snowstorm, but I was thinking about prayer--ongoing, heartfelt communion with God. In any urgent situation, of course, prayer is instantly available; but why wait? The thought that finds refuge in the Christly business of keeping God's healing presence in mind, refusing to be victimized, refusing to be fatigued by fear or worn by worry, is the thought that has quietly engaged in prayer in an ongoing way. Unselfish acknowledgment of one universal Father, willingness to learn and express His will, resolute affirmation of His power for good, and love for our neighbor--these too are some of the Christlike elements of unceasing prayer. Such prayer embodies a wellspring of spiritual qualities that forms our attitude and directs every action of the day toward harmony and progress.

Consistent prayer not only directs and uplifts but protects. When help is needed, prayer that has been a continuing part of our day does not seem so far away but has become a natural mental activity. Prayer that has been made a companion when things are going well is not so likely to give way when they're not.

Things couldn't have been better the day our family planned a mountain picnic. The June sun was so bright and warm that our whole day was shining. It was natural for us to reason that since God did not leave His offspring out of His plan, we would not think of leaving Him out of ours; therefore every aspect of the outing was approached with prayerful willingness to let His wisdom and good nature be expressed.

Dawn cleared the mountains as expected the next morning, but that was the only thing that went according to schedule. For reasons no one could explain, we left earlier than planned, enjoyed a brief picnic lunch, and were ready to return about the time we had expected to be hiking. Safely home with the carload of children, we looked toward the mountains and were astonished to see a gray wall of water covering the area we had just left! An isolated, severe thunderstorm had resulted in a flash flood that raged through the canyon, strong enough to move boulders. We had not been aware of the danger but were completely protected by remaining prayerfully in harmony with God's direction.

The Apostle Paul did not waffle about unceasing prayer. His directions were simple and clear, yet not the stuff that might sink his fellow Christians into self-condemnation. On the contrary, his instructions were accompanied by two buoyant peace-preservers: joy and gratitude. He said: ``Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.''1 He was not talking about mere positive thinking that ignores world needs and personal problems just to keep a cheerful outlook. Qualities such as joy and gratitude have their source in God, and unceasing prayer is a conscious, deliberate choice to remain aware of God's unlimited spiritual nature and to be receptive to His solutions. It is willingness to keep thought open to God so that His wisdom may be known individually and lived openly.

The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,2 reveals how we may follow Paul's counsel, free from self-righteousness or pious withdrawal from normal daily activities. It says, ``Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.''3

Unceasing prayer brings stability to our day. It increasingly makes us aware that God's great love for His children is strong, dependable, and always present. Cherished silently and expressed in action, prayer provides peace and purpose that nothing else can achieve. Faithfully maintained, it puts us in touch with some degree of the fearless confidence that emanates from God alone. So don't wait for something to go wrong. ``Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.''4

1I Thessalonians 5:16-18. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health, p. 261. 4Job 22:21. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

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